Monday, October 27, 2008

Misadventures - The (Way) Overpriced Lunch

Walking through Paris, with its rich culture and seemingly endless supply of the best-looking pastries and desserts I’ve ever seen, it’s nearly impossible to go a day without indulging in something. After all, I know I’ll walk it off.

Sometimes, however, it’s more than calories that add up.

On my second trip to Paris – as in “I should have known better” – my family and I happened to be walking around the square where the Bastille used to stand. I was prattling on about the part the storming of the infamous prison has played in French history when we happened to pass by a pastry shop.

The display case in the window drew us like moths to a flame. Cheesecakes, éclairs, chocolate cakes, macarons, strawberry pies and a host of other delicious-looking desserts called our names.The prices seemed fairly reasonable, with just abut every dessert being less than five euros. Did we see the sign that said – even in English for us stupid Americans – “take away prices”? Nope. We even took a picture of it, but who would expect us to even notice the sign with all those desserts distracting us?

The French, apparently.

We each decided what we wanted, and ordered from the counter.

“Would you like to sit inside?” the woman asked.

We looked at each other, peered through the window at the cute little elevated seating area overlooking the obelisk in the center of the intersection and thought, why not?

Once we were seated, the stereotypical Parisian waiter waltzed over to us and smiled, then took our order in perfect English.

A moment later, our mouths were salivating as plates were set in front of us. The Cokes we ordered each came in a little glass bottle, accompanied by a glass with a slice of lemon and, luxury of luxuries – ice. That should have been a warning.

Seriously, if you’re in Europe and your server speaks flawless English, the signs are in English and your drink comes with ice, don’t order another thing.

Oblivious to what was looming at the end of the meal, we ate like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette before the Revolution. My cheesecake with raspberry sauce was the best I’ve ever had. Most likely because I was eating it in Paris, but it was definitely excellent.

My sister enjoyed every last bite of her strawberry cheesecake, and my parents laughed as they cleaned their plates.

I drained the last of my soda and sat back, satisfied and thinking I could get used to this kind of lunch.

Then the bill came.

I did the math in my head. We’d ordered the cheap desserts, and they should have totaled 12 euros, give or take. Add in the beverages, small as they were, and I thought we were looking at another 10 euros, tops. Then the pittance for the service charge that is almost always factored in, and we’d be good to go.

I never expected the bill to be 44 euros. We stared at the scrap of paper like cavemen contemplating a TV, our mouths comically open.

Flagging the server brought him hustling over, a small miracle in France, where meals can last for the better part of an afternoon.

“Yes, but you sat down and ate in here,” was the end result to our disbelieving questions.

How glad was I that dad was paying? Factor in the exchange rate, and that little snack had actually cost us just under $60.

What could we say? They put a sign out, in English, and we were the idiots who suddenly lost our literacy, not them. There was nothing for it but to leave the money on the table and beat a hasty retreat. At least we knew for next time.

It didn’t help any that, walking to the closest ATM, we passed the shop next door, which happened to stock the same basic selections. Not only were they cheaper, but they advertised no extra charge for sitting inside.

Ah well. C’est la vie.


Linda Le Park said...

Ha! That's not even lunch. Just dessert. But mmmm, it made me so hungry! If you travel, why not indulge? Just remember to read the signs. ha!

nanaxiu said...

funny. :)